Matthew Norman's Media Diary: Oscars could be silent movie awards

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A month before the Oscars, our thoughts turn to the valiant battle for justice being waged by the Writers Guild of America (primarily for extra income from new media) – the most significant industrial action in the USA, observers believe, since Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer struck for 12 years from a kneading job at H&H bagels for reasons never made entirely clear. Having already reduced the forthcoming Golden Globes to a brief press conference, the WGA has the Academy Awards in its sights. Agonising though it would certainly be were that ceremony reduced by so much as a minute, sacrifices must be made.

Honestly, I find it difficult to address this matter without welling up, Hillary-style, at the thought of those valiant souls abandoning their chat show monologues to man the picket lines, their clothes ever more raggedy, their bellies screaming for nourishment.

So let's pay tribute to Michael Winship, president of the WGA east coast branch, who keeps members up to date with a stream of letters. His New Year effort is a favourite, striking the perfect balance between cheeriness and stoicism. Michael hopes that members managed to enjoy the holiday, but admits that he himself "hit the wall" the Friday before Christmas. "In solidarity," signs off this Lech Walesa of US entertainment, and solidarity is what's required from brethren here.

To this end I urge the holding of a 24 hour candlelight vigil, in Parliament Square, led by such gifted TV writers as Last of the Summer Wine's Roy Clarke. Whether this will help steel the WGA to hang on in there for the deal they so richly deserve, who can say? But virtue is its own reward, and we must all of us do what we can.

This is not to suggest that the Writers Guild of Great Britain isn't firmly behind its US counterpart, even though its web site forlornly explains that legislation precludes its issuing a strike instruction (it can't even discipline "scab writers"). I'm especially relieved about this on behalf of Carnival, the independent drama producer commissioned by ITV more than any other.

Admittedly, its recent efforts haven't been huge hits. One critic wittily described Christmas At The Riviera as the biggest turkey of the season, while the six-parter Whistle Blowers produced some of the lowest ratings in ITV prime time history (less than 10 per cent of audience share for the final episode). Still, you can't win 'em all, and we urge Carnival's MD Gareth Neame to keep his chin up.

What Gareth must on no account do is to take his problems home to loving partner Sally Haynes, deputy controller of drama at one or other of the networks (ITV, I seem to recall, although my memory isn't great).

Splendid to find Stuart Maconie writing in The Times about how sick he is of pop nostalgia shows on TV when this is the true golden age. But I think we guessed Stuart's feelings from his fabled refusal ever to reminisce on any of the myriad TV nostalgia programmes, and the legendary absence of his name from the writing credits at their end.

Favourite columnist Jon Gaunt's lachrymals are activated again, this time by an email from Sun reader Lucy about having a little less than £200 a month left over after paying all the bills (£50 for phone and broadband, £70 on petrol, a distressing £300 on food, and so on).

The contrast between this hardship and the cushy treatment of immigrants such as the terminally ill woman sent home to die without drugs in Ghana last week speaks for itself. It is the likes of Lucy and husband Gary, "who should be cherished, looked after and helped," writes Gaunty, preparing to unleash a volley of alliteration, "rather than the feral, feckless foreigners and freeloaders. It (Lucy's missive) moved me to tears." And me, Gaunty. And all who read it, and studied the itemised monthly outgoings with mounting pain in our hearts.

Incidentally, I look forward to The Sun's coverage of Liverpool's year as our City of Culture. No word yet about the appointment of a special correspondent, but judging by his latest column Kelvin MacKenzie doesn't have too much on his mind at the minute.

As for that poor Ghanaian, she was the genesis for a typically captivating phone-in on Victoria Derbyshire's 5 Live show on Friday. If there's one thing this excellent programme needs to do more, its whip up overtly racist listeners to express their delight at such treatment of immigrants, what with the NHS being so starved of cash that it can't look after its own.

It's typical of the leftie liberal disdain for ordinary folk that there can't be more than a couple of these debates a month. Small wonder Gaunty said in a recent interview that 5 Live should sack Victoria and hire him instead.

Victoria's highlight of the week came elsewhere, however, during an item on maltreated horses. Asked about their condition, Lynn Cutress of horse rescue charity Redwings piously explained that she "couldn't comment on individual cases ...I can't comment on anything individually, I'm afraid." Magical stuff.

In a leader, finally, The Sun rails furiously at a model agency's plans to make a fortune by providing a Madeleine McCann lookalike for a film. The paper's sensibilities do it great credit.

The thought of any commercial enterprise seeking to profit from human tragedy is repugnant, of course it is. But sometimes it takes a red top tabloid to remind us of the fact.

Comments